Celebrity glitz takes the shine off traditional women's fare The women's weeklies is one of the most lucrative sectors of the magazine industry with women buying more than 7.2 million copies a week from the news stands and generating more than £5m a week in retail revenue. Clare Blake, strategic planning manager at IPC Connect, which has six titles in the sector, says the market is in good health: "The women's weeklies market is the lifeblood of the magazine industry and it alone drives 30% of all consumer magazine sales with retail revenues over £275m ­ up 3.2% on last year [excludes Heat magazine]." However, the latest ABC figures show the market is divided into two groups with celebrity based titles such as OK! and Hello increasing sales while more traditional titles such as Woman and Woman's Own are losing readers. The exception is Bauer's That's Life ­ the only title in the traditional sector to post an increase in sales on the previous period. OK! magazine from Northern & Shell is winning the celebrity race ­ in the latest ABC period it maintained its lead on Hello ­ despite being 30p more expensive ­ adding more than 136,000 to its news stand tally to reach 524,702. However, Hello also increased its news stand sale to 463,987 and took its overall sales past the 500,000 mark ­ due in part to the magazine's recent shift away from coverage of minor European royalty towards mainstream coverage of UK celebrities. Sally Cartwright, publishing director at Hello, says: "It certainly looks like the celebrity magazine sector is the booming sector of the market at the moment ­ everyone is interested in the lives of the interesting and famous." Jane Ennis, editor of Now magazine, whose formula of combining a traditional weekly with a celebrity slant has put it ahead of Hello and OK! in terms of percentage increases, says the celebrity content adds a fresh angle to the traditional offering. "The celebrity market is a newer market and gives people different things to read about. Other weekly classics in the women's market have been around a long time. People have always been interested in celebrities but the market perhaps has not been tapped into so aggressively before now." But the reliance on celebrity content can affect sales consistency, with sales of OK! and Hello fluctuating significantly according to which celebrities are featured. Cartwright points out that strong issues of Hello ­ such as those carrying exclusive celebrity weddings ­ are pushed much more in terms of marketing than other issues: "If we have an exclusive we do promotion for that issue on TV or in the press." Now's Ennis ­ whose magazine outsells Hello on the news stands with 475,571 while remaining behind its rival in overall sales ­ says this approach results in a "peaks and troughs" effect. She claims that Now, which Hello's Cartwright refers to as a "halfway house", strikes a balance between the traditional and celebrity titles, resulting in "consistently solid sales". "I like to think of Now as a women's weekly with a celebrity engine. I worry just as much about the cookery and the agony pages as about the celebrity content. We represent value and don't have off weeks' as we don't go in for troughs like other magazines with the big celebrity exclusives. I think Now is doing so well because it delivers a good solid package every week." But while the celebrity magazines are growing rapidly, the more traditional weeklies still lead the market, with Bauer's Take a Break the clear winner, with a news stand ABC of 1,137,952. Although this is slightly down on the last period, it is still massively ahead of its nearest rival, IPC's Woman, which posted 620,382. David Goodchild, publishing director for Take a Break and That's Life, puts Take a Break's success down to "its ability to appeal to a wide audience, from 18 to 80 year-olds", but adds: "Take a Break is down in the ABCs, which is a continuing trend in the women's weeklies market. We are looking at trying to reverse that trend this year. There will be some refinements in editorial and on the cover that we expect to pay out." Goodchild puts the drops in sales down to competition both within and outside the magazine market. "Circulation has dropped since 1994 largely because of increased competition from other magazines and from television ­ we suspect the fall in readers is partly due to the increase in real-life TV. Another factor is that people's lifestyles change and the readers who started reading TAB when it launched in 1995 may have busier lives now. This is why our January television campaign had the message There's always time to take a break'." Goodchild says retailers themselves also play an important part in maximising sales of the weeklies. "For retailers it is of major importance to give Take a Break prime display because it has the highest circulation of the women's weeklies. It is important that it can always be seen and real availability' is also crucial, especially in supermarkets that tend to sell high volumes. On the first day of publication a supermarket probably sells 30% of that week's copies ­ maybe a couple of hundred copies, so on that day it needs to be given two or three facings. Retailers also need to make sure shelves are stocked sufficiently or they could be losing sales as readers expect to be able to find it on the day of publication." As might be expected women's weeklies are a key seller in supermarkets as they fit in neatly with the weekly shop. Bauer's Goodchild says: "Supermarket sales of TAB have grown because it is essentially an every week shop and does form part of that cycle." But IPC's Clare Blake points out that "while supermarket share is increasing, independent retailer sales remain important", particularly with traditional weeklies. Similarly, Hello's Sally Cartwright says: "We sell 28% through supermarkets and more than 40% through independents." The only magazine bucking the downward trend in the traditional weeklies market is Bauer's That's Life, which increased its news stand sales from 567,414 to 569,804, and has consistently inched up the market since its 1995 launch to claim the number three spot. That's Life is aimed at the thirty-something reader and Goodchild says its success is down to its ability to attract a new reader base. "We are constantly developing the editorial and continuing to draw new readers in ­ it is important the magazine is given full facing as it is the cover that catches the new reader," he says. Ahead of That's Life in the number two spot is IPC's Woman. Established in 1937, it remains a strong seller, focusing on family and health and with a core 22-44 year old readership. IPC's Clare Blake points out that magazines such as Woman offer a chance for multiple purchases. She says: "Our research shows consumers do buy more than one magazine a week. For instance, 33% of Woman and Woman's Own buyers buy both magazines at the same time." Blake adds that another opportunity the weeklies present for retailers are the "specials" ­ less frequent spin-offs from the weeklies, which offer additional purchasing often at a premium price. The specials had their first audited figures recently, with the Chat Passion Series notching up 139,524 sales and the Now Style Series posting 153,404. Following this success, IPC has plans to build on the frequency of the Now Star Style Series. {{CTN }}